Following reductions in its housing target and Green Belt release, Warrington Council is pressing on with a public consultation on its Local Plan, although some MPs and residents remain opposed to the proposals.
The Local Plan, which is currently in draft form and covers the period from 2017 to 2037, has a housing target of 18,900 homes, which equates to 945 a year.
The council had previously consulted on its preferred option for the plan, but found “widespread public concern” about the level of growth proposed, including the impact on the Green Belt and the number of homes put forward.
As a result, Warrington’s housing target was cut from 1,113 per year to 945; although substantial Green Belt release still remains, with 4,200 homes to be delivered on the Green Belt to the south east of the town.
However, the ambitions for the borough’s “garden suburb” at the junction of the M6 and M56 have also been revised with the size and extent of Green Belt release due to be reduced. A planned expansion of the town to the south west has also been reduced to maintain a green buffer between the site and Moore Village in neighbouring Halton.
As well as these two sites, Green Belt release will enable the construction of 1,085 homes around other settlements in the borough.
The council added that due to large brownfield sites potentially coming available in the plan period, including the Fiddlers Ferry Power Station and other sites in the town centre, it was not proposing to release any additional land from the Green Belt beyond 2037.
Affordable housing targets are set at 20% for inner Warrington, and 30% elsewhere in the borough, while one in every five homes will be built for elderly residents.
As well as housing, the plan proposes 894 acres of employment land.
Compared to the previous consultation, three additional sites are being put forward for employment use, which are Port Warrington, covering 184 acres next to Warrington Waterfront on the Manchester Ship Canal; the Waterfront Business Hub, covering 63 acres; and an employment area of 286 acres as part of the “garden suburb”.
According to the council, this latter site would “meet a large proportion” of the borough’s identified industrial and employment requirement.
Warrington Council will now look to launch a formal public consultation on the Local Plan, with the proposals due to be signed off at a council meeting next week. Following a consultation, the plan will need to be examined by the Planning Inspectorate.
Warrington South Labour MP Faisal Rashid has signalled his opposition to Green Belt release in the draft plan, as well as arguing against the development of Port Warrington.
“In response to the preferred development option, I criticised proposals to remove land from the Green Belt for development and called for the land to be protected,” he said.
“I made it clear that I wanted to see a brownfield first approach taken to development in the town. In response to those concerns, and concerns from many Warrington South residents, the Council has reduced the amount of Green Belt that could be released for development.
“However, my view on this issue remains unchanged. I believe that development of our local Green Belt land is the wrong approach to take to meet development targets set out by the Government. Green Belt land should only be developed in the most exceptional of circumstances and it must be protected from development wherever possible.”
Warrington Council will discuss the Local Plan at a meeting on 25 March.